The Similarities Between CX and Parenting

“Papa, you’ve been talking about CX since I can remember,” — my 16 year old son, Simon.

I’m an odd parent, and an odd CX professional. When it comes to parenting my two boys, 16 and 14, I spend a lot of time preparing them to be interesting people by preparing them to be interested. I don’t do parenting the way a lot of my peers or former wife think I should. I can’t. It doesn’t feel at all natural or interesting to me.

I practice CX professionally, in much the same way. I genuinely believe that being “interesting” is as important to the future of my children as being “interesting” is to the future of my clients.

For some reason, a long time ago as a child, I realized I was surrounded by really interesting people. They were heretics and poets and transients and industry champions and lost alcoholics with shattered ideas and artists and simple craftsmen and homosexuals and fanatical entrepreneurs and proud ironworkers and doctors and schizophrenics and drug abusers. And I was there in the middle listening, watching, empathizing, pretending, silently practicing shocking interviews, taking inventory—saying the things I saw and experienced—out loud and very consciously contextualizing the odd reactions. I was hooked on “interesting,” or at least what interested me—wondering if it might also interest others I hadn’t yet met.

When I was going through primary school and college in Iowa, I noticed that I was still only surrounded by interesting people who made me wonder what it was that created and sustained this odd phenomenon. It was me. I unconsciously curated the group around which I would spend time and attention. I was farming crops of friends and acquaintances by virtue of their experiences, emotions and outward expressions of themselves and their world views. For those to whom I was most attracted, they too were attracted to me and the way I chose to trade time for engagement. But what was it that caused and fed this? It was authenticity, transparency and the courage to say exactly what was on my mind without the powerful urges of inhibition. Turns out, that’s interesting to the people that interest me.

Back to parenting. As a divorced father of two beautiful little odd creatures, I reflect back on what I did and how I practiced my beliefs in raising them. There are very consistent threads through my parenting that I designed as a younger person.
Alongside the basic virtues of do the right thing, don’t be an asshole, do your best possible job, don’t lie, and treat everyone like you would want to be treated, I also hyper-emphasized BE INTERESTING.

It’s both difficult and strange to teach children to be interesting – as a core tenet of being. It’s strange because so few seem to make it a priority.

Here is how I did it:

  • be curious out loud
  • say what you feel first, then what you see second
  • no one who matters will prevent you from being your best self
  • it’s arrogant to worry about what others think of you, they’re busy
  • look at more of everything, think about it harder and differently
  • whoever said, “don’t talk to strangers” was scared, talk to the strangers
  • zero in on those who need help/a friend/a smile/a simple interaction
  • saying exactly what’s on your mind will alienate all the right people
  • if you need attention, you’re doing it wrong
  • if you’re bored, you’re boring, start over
  • read 20 books at a time and let their subjects fight for your attention
  • pay attention to everything your friends and family are saying
  • everything that’s important is hidden in the cracks of the expected
  • learn chemistry, it’s strong enough to be a metaphor for anything
  • move to the center of more conversations you’re passionate about
  • sharks can only survive by continuously moving through water, curiosity is your water

I must say, this has worked really well. These two kids are really odd and really fantastic. They thrive everywhere they go and have extraordinary magnetism. Downside that only parents will get: I have to buy dozens of $40 presents for all the birthday parties to which they’re constantly invited.

So, how does this have anything to do with CX?

In my work with companies who want to increase customer centricity or develop strong content marketing frameworks, I find myself using many of same patterns—because they work. Turns out, creating interesting children is eerily similar to creating the conditions of engagement. And the same applies to your employees. It also turns out, that the more curious those who are engaging customers on your frontline, the more interesting they are and the more valuable and memorable the touchpoint/interactions are for your customers.

Now, go back and read the tenets used to raise interesting children—but this time imagine how you’d rethink Customer Experience for your company across that list.

Think of how you can increase your CX EQ and develop stronger relationships with your customers—by doing the things that create “interesting.” Now think about yourself. Who would you rather have a relationship with, personally or professionally? Chances are you want to be around those who are more interesting than not and you want to do business with those who are more engaging and interesting as well. And wouldn’t you really like to have interesting customers? You get interesting customers by being interesting, yourself.

Now, go be the change you too would like to benefit from. Go be interesting. I guarantee, your customers will thank you for it.

On the parenting side, if I’m successful, hopefully someday my two boys will thank me for making “interesting” a thing to be.

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